Theatre Review – A Christmas Carol.

Well… this is nice…

THEATRE REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – WATERSIDE ARTS, SALE

December 2, 2022 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mesmerising in his delivery, Guy Masterson’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of the best theatre adaptations to grace the stage. 

In 1843 there was a novella published. That novella was A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens and would go on to be one of the most consistently read works on the planet. It has never been out of print, it has been translated into every language and countless film and theatre productions have portrayed the tale of Scrooge, his fear, his hope and his redemption with varying success.

The performance starts with the audience being taken back in time by a brief but very effective audio montage; we are no longer in 2022, we are in London on a cold and bleak Christmas Eve. It is cold, it is foggy, Scrooge is a miser resenting more than one coal on a fire for his clerk, Bob Cracchit and with his own ideas on how to “decrease the surplus population” of waifs and strays. The scene is set for us to fly with Scrooge on his journey, a tale we all know but with this telling as fresh as the day it was published.

Our sole guide is Guy Masterson who is mesmerising in his delivery, there is not one utterance that goes unheard, not one action that is missed where the audience are not enthralled under a spell of pure joy. Captivated by a story heard so many times a pin dropping would have been loud enough to have been the clanking of the chains surrounding Marley. A solo performance is hard, it is hard on the actor to hit the right note with the audience, to build the suspense and to convey the atmosphere and nuances of each character but in this performance that is exactly what happens; it is simply a tour de force of storytelling. Characters are conveyed with not only voice changes but also in mannerisms, descriptions are lucious and vivid and the attention to the text is detailed.

Writer and director Nick Hennegan has worked from an early script by Dickens himself for his reading tours for this live performance and it shows. More than anything it feels not like an adaptation, not a glossy rewrite but unmistakably Dickensian, the words are not merely written and spoken, they are painted on a page and recounted with passion.

This performance has been met with critical acclaim and rightly so. It is simply the best theatre adaptation I have witnessed; whether that is because of the sheer power of the delivery by Guy Masterson, the “stripped back” nature of the staging or merely the fact that a work first given to the work nearly 200 years ago is as relevant today as ever I don’t know. What I do know is that it is not so much a performance as an experience. In the theatre you could feel the audience living every word and perhaps that is the measure of the work and the performance that touches all. After watching this powerful adaptation you may just, in the words of Scrooge himself, “honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year”.

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